Enter your email address to get our weekly email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life.
Musing for Meaning

I’ve Been Hacked!

April 29, 2012

Today my e‑mail account was hacked. I shouldn’t be surprised—after all, it happens all the time to everyone else—but this was the first time it happened to me.

I opened my Yahoo account to greet hundreds of undeliverable messages. Along with them were dozens of contacts, many of whom I haven’t spoken to in years, responding with the question whether I had actually sent the e‑mail or if I was hacked. And then came the fear of realizing how many people actually received my fraudulent, and possibly virus-filled, e‑mail. There were the professors my husband had done his doctorate with, there were business contacts, my kid’s teachers, doctors, and of course friends and family. Basically, everyone and anyone with whom I have ever corresponded received this e‑mail.

Everyone and anyone with whom I have ever corresponded received this e‑mailAt this very moment, I can no longer access my account. I have tried sending new e‑mails, to be told there is an error. I have tried changing my password, but cannot. So I have diligently copied and pasted e‑mails into my work e‑mail, to warn people not to click on the link that “I” sent them. I think I am writing this article right now because the thought of losing access to my e‑mail, or the upcoming work I will have to fix the existing problem, is a tad too overwhelming for me to even deal with.

I just looked at my inbox, where there are over 8,000 e‑mails. Yes, I know, a serious cleaning of my inbox would be a good idea at this time. And while I have never really thought about the importance of my e‑mail, in many ways it is like a diary of the last number of years of my life. While I have never done it, I imagine if I were to read through e‑mail exchanges from five years ago I would laugh, cry, be moved and be shocked by some of the things I said, felt and did.

In thinking about it, no doubt I have e‑mails sitting there from those who are no longer with us. I have lost some close friends in the last few years, and while I have yet to search, I imagine our exchanges are still sitting there, still in that inbox.

What is funny, though, is how I keep getting e‑mail now from those I haven’t spoken to in a while, and probably wouldn’t speak to again for some time. Yet when they saw an e‑mail from me, they took the time to respond, warn me that my account was hacked and ask how I was doing. Amazingly, this huge inconvenience has put me back in touch with some people that I probably would not have written to on my own, but am so happy to be hearing from.

While I have never really thought about the importance of my e‑mail, in many ways it is like a diary of the last number of years of my lifeMaybe that is why this happened after all. Maybe, more than a thorough cleaning of my inbox and deleting old e‑mails, it is a reminder to every once in a while look back, see who could use a friendly “Hello, how are you?” There are all those people I have been meaning to get in touch with. And, funny enough, I just did. In one fell swoop I contacted everyone I would love to say hi to again (okay, and probably hundreds that I really didn’t need to say hello to also . . . ), but there is still something redeemable about the situation!

And guess what? Just now I checked once again (yes, this is consuming my day). And there was that e‑mail I always hope for. Someone wants to book me for a speaking engagement! But what makes this particularly enjoyable . . . the message that came with it. “Hi, I realize that this e‑mail is probably spam, but glad I received it, because it reminded me how we have wanted to book a date for you to come and speak. Please be in touch . . .”

Ha . . . so back at you hackers out there, who tried to ruin my e‑mail and day. You haven’t won. If anything, thanks to you I just got a speaking gig. And the chance to reconnect with some old friends. And even an article. So I guess I owe you a thank you, dear hackers. And let me wish you refuah shleimah (wishes for a speedy recovery) as well. Really, have you nothing better to do with your time? Here’s a suggestion: try taking those brains and ability that you clearly have, and do something positive (no, not unintentionally positive, but with the goal of being productive). You might just find that doing the right thing is a lot more fulfilling than the wrong thing. Just a suggestion from the one you hacked . . .

P.S.: In the end I was able to change my password, and everything has been running smoothly since. And I have been continuing to get e‑mail messages from long-lost friends who were so very happy to have heard from me!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Gambling with Our Lives

April 22, 2012

The first time I was exposed to gambling, I was eighteen years old and went with a friend to Las Vegas for New Year’s. I had never before entered a casino or watched a card game. It had just never appealed to me, and I certainly didn’t have any extra money I could have afforded to lose.

But here was an opportunity to get picked up in a limousine, fly first class, and have all expenses paid for by the hotel. After all, my friend was quite the gambler, and so as a thank-you for the tens of thousands she had lost to them, she and another hundred like her were treated to a New Year’s celebration on the house.

After all, these people were addictsThe casino was brilliant. They knew that for the little they would give, they would get plenty in return. After all, these people were addicts. And once you tempt an addict with their vice, it is only a matter of time before they repay you greatly for your free gift.

But at the time I was too naive to realize that joining her actually meant supporting her unhealthy addiction. It didn’t take long, though, to realize. I remember telling myself that I would be willing to gamble $20. If I lost it, I was done. If I won something along the way, I was willing to play with those winnings. But I would not spend any more than the original $20 I brought in.

And so, that is how my night went. And it was a short one. I didn’t know how to play anything sophisticated, so I stayed with the slot machines. I would win a few dollars, lose a few, win a few, and after what I considered a fairly nice win of $50, I chose to take my earnings and leave.

I was done. Satisfied. Had my fun, and all was good. Except that I couldn’t find my friend.

As I went to look for her, for the first time I took a good look at my surroundings. The room was so brightly lit it was blinding, and everywhere you turned there was a beautiful woman offering you a drink. The place was crowded, smoky, and there were no windows. After a minute I was dizzy, and knew I needed some fresh air. But, before leaving, I found my friend at a card table.

The game was high stakes, and I watched these people stand there, gambling their lives away. At one point, as a bunch of chips were taken from one man, someone mentioned how he had just lost $50,000. I couldn’t believe it. I was so choked with emotion at the absolute wastefulness involved. I turned to him and screamed, “$50,000? Do you realize that could have paid for my college education? I make $7 an hour, and you just lost $50,000 over choosing the wrong card?!”

My outburst was not appreciated by the staff, and I was nicely asked to leave the casino and return to my room. It didn’t take much convincing, as I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I went to the room and attempted to open my window—when I realized I couldn’t. I called the front desk and was told that none of the windows opened in the hotel. Actually, none of the windows open in any of the Las Vegas hotels.

Why?

To prevent anyone from jumping.

I hadn’t thought about this incident until recently. And only recently, because on our cruise ship there was a casino. Here we were, on an enormous ship, traveling to some of the most beautiful locations in the world, and people chose to spend their time losing their money inside a casino with fake lighting and no ability to see the ocean, the sky, or the beautiful beaches around them.

My outburst was not appreciated by the staff, and I was nicely asked to leave the casino and return to my roomI started to wonder what I gamble with in my life. Even though I have never been tempted to pull down on a lever and watch numbers spin around, or learn how to play poker, I realized I am also not immune to the dangers of gambling.

Gambling implies that our life is random. That everything is up to luck, and that nothing we do can necessarily create or prevent our outcome. When we win, we convince ourselves we are on a roll, and want to win even more. When we lose, we don’t want to walk away with less, so we keep playing, hoping that we will get lucky and win back and come out ahead. But as we do this, underlying it all, is the lack of belief that there is any purpose, anything greater than ourselves, any meaning behind what we do.

We are not mere players in a game. Or, as Shakespeare more eloquently put it, on a stage. We are each here with a mission and purpose and talents and abilities unlike any other. That is why we were created. Our being in this world is not random; therefore, we must ensure that our actions in this world not be random either.

While I don’t gamble my money, I am not always so careful with my words. If I am upset, you will know. I will tell you. And in no uncertain terms. I throw out my words like the dice, hoping they land where I want them to. But I don’t always think about how my words will affect the other. The pain it will cause. The everlasting effect, far beyond my hurt and anger that will most likely quickly dissipate. I take that gamble because in doing so, it minimizes my responsibility. I was upset, therefore I said that.

I gamble with my time. I am too busy to sometimes listen to my child, because I want to answer another e‑mail. How do I know how much time I will have, to be so flippant with the opportunities presented to me? I gamble, assuming I will have endless time to make them up. Just like the ones who are sure that even though they are standing in debt, they will eventually win and profit. Gambling diminishes our responsibilities. Nothing we did created the outcome, therefore what we do does not matter.

But our lives are not random. Every action we make leads to another, and if the first one is not in the right direction, the second one has a much greater chance of not being so either.

We can make conscious choices only when we connect with our reality, not when we try to escape from itWe do not roll the right numbers when we throw our dice in the air and wait for them to fall in the right place. We get the right numbers when we look at all our options, think about all the different outcomes, recognize the consequences of whatever choices we make, and then decide what to do. But we certainly can’t do this when there aren’t any windows to see the world around us, or fake lighting so that things don’t look as they really are. We can make conscious choices only when we connect with our reality, not when we try to escape from it.

My friend and I entered the casino on the cruise ship only once. And that was because it was, strategically, the only way to get to where we needed to go. We held our breaths to avoid inhaling the smoke, and walked as fast as we could from one end to the other. And when we exited, we breathed a sigh of relief, stood on the deck looking at the beautiful blue seas, breathing in the fresh sea air and feeling grateful for where we were, what got us there, and looking forward to where we would be going next. And we both knew, that to a very great extent, that it would be up to us, our choices and our decisions.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Shooting the Computer

April 15, 2012

You may have seen the viral video of the disgruntled father who blasted his daughter online, and then ended by shooting her laptop computer. Yes, shooting. With a gun. Bam.

Now, to be perfectly honest, when I first watched the video, I found it humorous. Until I thought more about it and realized it was quite disturbing. And I don’t just mean the idea of pulling out a gun to make a point, but how—rather than teaching her an educational lesson—he instead confirmed her very complaints against him, by showing the world how irrational and unreasonable he truly was.

He confirmed her very complaints against him, by showing the world how irrational and unreasonable he truly wasAs a parent, it is our responsibility to be a dugma chayah, a living example of what we want our children to emulate. And undoubtedly there will be times when our children disappoint, do the wrong thing, or simply go in a direction we would rather they not. But more than what they do is how we react to it.

In this video, which currently has over 31 million (yes, million) views, he responds to her disrespectful, embarrassing and inaccurate (in his eyes) rant that she made on her Facebook page to her friends, by doing the exact same to her in return. The key difference here being that he is the adult, she the child. Another key difference is that this girl probably had at most a few hundred friends. But now, thanks to Dad, who read her letter in his video response, millions know what she said and how he handled it.

Our words create reality. And we are far more likely to believe the bad than the good. There is no question that when a child says cruel things, it hurts. But a reasonable and rational parent knows that the child herself was angry or hurt, and we try not to take it personally. Even more so if that parent can remember saying the very same things not that many years ago. So when a child says “I hate you,” it is unfortunate, sad, and yet quite typical, if not even expected. When a parent says “I hate you,” it is scarring, traumatic and abusive.

This father never said he hated his daughter, but the way he spoke about her and to her, with such anger, disgust and disrespect, certainly came across as such. If he loves her, it is well hidden, since his ego and his money seemed to be much more important to him than his daughter.

The Torah teaches us that to embarrass another person is likened to murder. To say that words can kill is quite accurate. When we label another, when we humiliate them and tell them they are not worthy, we create a lasting effect on their mind, heart and soul. And, since they are so young and impressionable, they grow up with these feelings of unworthiness and insecurity.

He taught his daughter that when all else fails, one should resort to humiliation, violence and baseless destructionI am all for making it clear that disrespectful behavior is not appropriate or allowed. I am all for teaching a lesson that leaves a lasting impression and shows the child that there are consequences for irresponsible behavior. But that lesson should be one that comes from love, and ultimately teaches the child how to love. And in this case, the exact opposite is what happened.

More so, he taught his daughter that when all else fails, one should resort to humiliation, violence and baseless destruction. One of his main accusations was that she was spoiled and didn’t appreciate how easy she had it, or the things she had. He repeatedly spoke about the money and time he had invested updating her computer. But then, he destroyed that very computer, showing that valuable things are ultimately not that valuable, and that if she wants another one, she can always buy one. What he did is called bal tashchit, which is an aspect of Jewish law which prohibits wanton destruction of goods.

How I wished he would have given that computer away to someone who could have really used it and deserved it. Imagine the lesson if he found a child who struggled, and then allowed her to benefit in her studies and life from an expensive piece of equipment to which his daughter had lost her rights. Imagine if his rant was not about how much she humiliated him, but about the importance of working through issues directly and not broadcasting one’s anger in a public domain.

There were so many things he could and should have done. But he didn’t do any of them. He did accomplish some things, though. He showed me, and countless other parents, what not to do. He showed my daughter that, as unfair as she thinks we may be, she has healthy and loving parents who would never do to her what this poor girl went through. And hopefully, he exposed himself to enough criticism that he will rethink how he parents his children and lives his life.

In the meantime, I guess the blessing in all of this was that his public display of anger and resentment may just be the very thing that protects his daughter. Now that everyone knows who her father really is, then if her initial allegations were true, her life will hopefully only be easier from now on and not harder, as the world is now watching.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Words That Hurt, Words That Heal

April 9, 2012

I received a phone call the other day from the mother of one of my children’s friends. I could tell she was a bit hesitant to broach the subject, but felt she had no choice. She told me that her son had come home from school crying that my child had called him a terrible name. She wanted to let me know.

Needless to say, I was shocked and embarrassed. I honestly didn’t know my son even knew this particular term that was so offensive. And even if this child had heard it, it was very unlike him to repeat it. But I didn’t think her child had made the story up, and I knew this was something we would have to deal with. While it could not have been easy for her to have called me, I was so glad she did. Had she not told me, I never would have known, and it would have ended a close friendship, which would have only caused both children pain.

My child had called him a terrible nameSome of our worst memories do not involve what someone has done to us, but rather what has been said. There are just certain words, certain phrases, that are almost impossible to take back. You can say “I love you” thousands of times. But it only takes one “I hate you” to make us question if the love was ever there.

I find it amazing that the defining characteristic of a human being is our ability to speak. Not the fact that we can think, but that we can speak. We are called a medaber, a speaker; and we are taught in the story of Creation that the phrase nefesh chayah, which means “a living soul”—used in describing when the first human, Adam, was given life—is synonymous, according to the commentators, with “a speaking spirit.”

But we don’t have to look too deeply to see the message right there in the description. The word chayah, referring to the level of the soul, is the same word in Hebrew as “animal.” Basically, if we use our ability to speak in the proper way, we merit the status of human beings. If we misuse or abuse it, we revert back to the base level of an animal. Every time we open our mouths, we choose.

We are now celebrating the holiday of Passover. The holiday of speaking. In the name of the holiday itself, Pesach, we have the explanation that it is peh, “mouth,” and sach, “speaking.” Furthermore, we spent the Passover seder reading the Haggadah aloud. The word haggadah comes from lehagid, which means “to tell.” So, clearly, this holiday is strongly related to our ability to speak out loud and connect to others through that speech.

Only once we are free can we speakAnd what do we speak about? Our slavery, our challenges and our redemption. Only once we are free can we speak. Slaves do not speak; they don’t have a voice. And even if they do, they will not be heard. Free people can speak, and must speak. Yet sometimes, it is that speech that causes all the problems.

We have all said things we wish we could take back. Things we regret and that caused pain, sometimes tremendous pain. And when we are hurt, we want to retreat. We don’t want to talk. We don’t want to have to share our feelings. But it is often only through speaking about the problem that we give it an opportunity to be solved.

Passover teaches us that part of healing and celebrating our freedom and miracles is by first recounting and discussing the negative, as that was part of the process. You cannot just make up with someone who was hurt unless you are willing to go back to what was said or done and talk through it. Pretending as if it never happened ensures that the relationship will not be able to heal. So, the same way that our words can create pain, it is often only through our words that we can heal that very pain.

And, you might wonder, what happened when I spoke to my child? Well, I asked if he knew the meaning of the word that was used. He has no idea what I was talking about. I reminded him that he had said it in school and called another boy by that name. He looked so confused.

The same way that our words can create pain, it is often only through our words that we can heal that very painIt was then explained that they had a writing assignment, and the word came up in something they were reading. Sure enough, this word did have a perfectly innocent and innocuous meaning as well, when not misused. And it turns out that my child did not have a clue there was any other meaning (until, of course, I said there was—whoops!), and was in no way trying to insult his friend. He thought he was being cute and silly, and simply was not aware that there was any other way of understanding the word.

So, needless to say (no pun intended) that through the fact that this boy’s mother was willing to speak to me and retell something negative, it was able to be resolved through speaking about it once again, and the air was cleared. When I called back the mother to report my findings, we were both so relieved, and shared quite the laugh. My son then got on the phone to his friend and apologized for unintentionally hurting him. In the process, he most definitely learned about the power of his words.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Freeing Ourselves From Ourselves

April 1, 2012

I feel bad admitting it, but Passover is most certainly not my favorite holiday. Ironically, I can’t even blame it on the cleaning and preparing, as I haven’t had to do it for the last number of years (thanks, Mom!). We have been blessed to spend Passover with my parents since we moved back to the States over six years ago, and if I can get away with not having to make it myself for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t mind at all!

To be fair, I have prepared and cooked for Passover before. For the nine years that we lived in Israel, I made Passover in our home each and every year. One of those years, we had guests staying with us as well. And I had given birth two weeks prior. So before you feel I am spoiled rotten with this getting-out-of-Passover-cleaning card, I have put in my time.

There is something about simplicity that is hard for meI think for me, though, my fear of Passover is more than the grunge work of cleaning. Yes, it is hard, and takes hours upon hours that I don’t ever feel I have. But I think it is more than that. I think I really fear needing to go through everything, to sort through things and re-evaluate what is necessary and what is not.

More so, cleaning for Passover is not just a spring cleaning. (But hey, who are we kidding? If I am going to clean, I might as well go through everything!) But really, cleaning for Passover is about finding the chametz, finding what is leavened. And the idea of something leavened is that it rises, it has air . . . basically, it has ego.

So, when we prepare for Passover, we have to go through everything and look and see if there is anything leavened. Once we are sure that there isn’t, we then cover and protect, so that anything that could possibly have remained is no longer accessible. And then, for the week of Passover, we go back to basics. No bread, crackers, pasta; just fruits, vegetables and meat. Nice and simple.

But there is something about simplicity that is hard for me. There is something about stripping down to the bare basics that makes things more revealed. The more complex something is, the easier it is to hide behind or within. For when there is nothing left, you just are what you are, for everyone to see.

I find it interesting that right after we finish Purim, the holiday of concealment and masking, we go straight into a search mission, leaving nothing unturned. We cannot mask the chametz. It certainly isn’t good enough to rely on the idea that if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Because it does. If it is there, whether or not I see it, whether or not it bothers me, I need to find it and remove it. It cannot remain.

Generally in Jewish law there is the concept of what we call bitul b’shishim, nullification by 1/60th. Practically, this means that if I have a big pot of chicken soup and a few drops of milk accidentally spill inside, as long as there is sixty times more soup than milk, the soup is still kosher. Yet when it comes to Passover, nothing is nullified. No crumbs can be left behind, no matter how small, if visible and removable. No matter how hidden, we are responsible to move that fridge, to check that drawer, to look under the couch. And what is amazing is that when we look, we somehow always find a pretzel where we never would have expected it!

We need to find that part of our ego that keeps us from being real, being true and being freeBut if the leavened products represent our ego, and it is our home, our private domain, that we must clean, not the places that don’t belong to us, then what that means is that what prevents us from truly being free—is ourselves. We are both slave and slavemaster simultaneously, where our inability to attain freedom is coming from within.

It is up to us to search our surroundings, to search ourselves, our minds, hearts and souls, and see what is there that cannot be nullified and therefore must be removed and destroyed. We need to find that part of our ego that keeps us from being real, being true and being free. And it will take time, it will take effort and it will take work. But it is only through this process that we can sit down at the Passover Seder and find our voice, the voice that has been silenced, and tell our story. It is our story of miracles, our story of redemption, our story of freedom.

And this is why we call it a Seder, which means “order.” Everything seems so out of the ordinary. Everything is so different from the rest of the year. But this is the true order. Going back to the basics. Being who we really are and who we are meant to be. And most importantly, being free.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
Every situation we find ourselves in is a lesson waiting to be learned. That is what this blog is about. From the people I meet, the places I go and the experiences I have, stories emerge, each teaching me something that I hope you will find useful for your life as well.
Sara Esther CrispeSara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
Related Topics